Professor Fiona Wood, AM, is one of the world’s leading burns surgeons. Having qualified from St Thomas’ in London, she decided to do what so many of us do and move down under. Since the early days of her career, she has recognized that improving the outcomes of burn victims involves not just scarless skin but also healing in mind and spirit. Along with Marie Stoner, she pioneered the use of ‘spray-on skin’ and is well known for the care she provided to the victims of the Bali bombings back in October 2002.
In this talk, she talks about the past, the present and the future of burns care whilst championing the roles of women in medicine and surgery. As a mother of six children, she reminds us all that nothing can be achieved without asking for it.
Burns can be a challenging condition to manage, especially in children where the potential for lifelong consequences is significant.
The Importance of Early Intervention
Early intervention is critical in burns management, especially in children. Every intervention, starting from the moment of injury, can have a lifelong impact on scar formation.
Cooling a burn between 15 and 18 degrees Celsius with clean, cool running water within one hour of injury can reduce a pediatric scald’s severity by 80%. Adequate first aid within the first three hours of injury can lead to reduced hospital stays, lower infection rates, and a quicker recovery.
The Journey of Regeneration
Professor Wood shares stories of patients who inspired her work, including a young boy she met in 1985. His case was pivotal in her journey to change the paradigm of scarring and burns management.
She also discussed the “Guinea Pig Club,” a group of World War II soldiers who suffered burns and were treated by pioneering surgeon Archibald McIndoe. Professor Wood’s work has built upon the lessons learned from these early pioneers in the field.
Cell-Based Therapies and 3D Printing
Professor Wood highlighted the development of cell-based therapies for burns, sharing her experiences from 1990 when she was involved in growing skin sheets from a postage stamp-sized piece of skin. This technology has evolved and is now used to treat burn victims more effectively.
Now, we can use 3D bioprinting to create full-thickness skin grafts, revolutionizing burn management by reducing scarring and improving outcomes.
The Long-Term Impact of Burns
Professor Wood stressed that the impact of burns goes beyond the initial injury. Surviving a burn injury can change a person’s life trajectory, leading to increased risks of various health conditions, including cancer. Understanding the long-term effects of burns is crucial in improving patient care.
This talk was recorded live at DFTB18 in Melbourne, Australia. With the theme of ‘Science and Story’ we pushed our speakers to step out of their comfort zones and consider why we do what we do. Caring for children is not just about acquiring scientific knowhow but also about looking beyond a diagnosis or clinical conundrum at the patient and their families.
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